Whether you have an individual matter or a high volume of cases, there are a variety of factors to consider when deciding which law firm to retain. One of the most important of these factors is the size of the law firm.
When considering the size of the firm best suited to your needs, one should keep in mind that all lawyers are NOT the same. Even within the same firm, there are different degrees of experience and expertise that fall within the following “basic categories”:
- Experienced senior attorneys
- Junior attorneys
If you are a “big client” at a “big firm,” the firm will have the resources to service your needs and the capacity that a small firm may lack. On the other hand, if you are a “small client” at a “big firm,” you can expect to be treated as such: a small fish in a big pond, where the larger fish are consistently given higher priority.
Note: Being a “big client” is relative, not absolute. It is based upon the percentage of the law firm’s revenue that is derived from the client’s business. A “small client” at a “big firm” may very well be a “big client" at a "small firm” as the revenue derived from that client’s business may be a much larger share of the small firm’s business than it would have been at a “big firm.”
Understandably, all firms devote greater resources and are more responsive to the clients who generate the highest percentage of their revenues, so it may be better to be a “big client at a small firm” than a “small client at a big firm.”
When consulting with a small firm, you are far more likely to be dealing directly with owners of the firm, and getting the benefits of their expertise and years of experience, as opposed to junior attorneys or paralegals. Some of my “larger” clients regularly review their accounts with me personally, each month, to update them on status and ensure there are no unknown problems. Since their business is so important to me, I am happy to accommodate them. If, however, they were at a much larger firm where their business was less significant, they might not enjoy the same level of service.
Additionally, when large firms service small clients, they typically assign that client’s matters to their junior associates while assigning the matters of their larger clients to their more senior staff. As an Adjunct Professor at a local law school for the past 25+ years, I know that while many of my students are extremely gifted, they have not yet attained sufficient experience to effectively handle cases as well as those with greyer hair.
In conclusion, when selecting a law firm, one should ensure not only that the firm is large enough to handle their work, but small enough to make it a priority. After all, would you rather be represented by the largest, best known law firm, or by the firm that makes you their top priority?